Music Playback via PC is Increasing

Is it merely the tip of the iceberg, or a temporary diversion? Hard to say just yet, but a recent report from the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) suggests that increasing numbers of folks are using their PCs in place of, or in addition to, regular audio systems.

According to the annual Multimedia PC survey released last week, "faster access to the Internet and greater technological awareness have spurred today's multimedia PC owners to use their computers increasingly for entertainment purposes."

"We were able to use a December 1996 survey as a historical benchmark for many of the questions we asked here," said Todd Thibodeaux, CEMA's senior economist and vice president of market research. "In just 14 months, consumer awareness and use of multimedia plug-ins has jumped, and, more than ever, people are playing audio CDs through their CD-ROM drives. As more powerful processors, DVD-ROM drives, and speedy Net access become the norm, we expect PCs will continue to develop as consumer entertainment devices."

The Internet is proving itself a handy new distribution channel for live broadcasts and sound files. The CEMA survey attributes the jump in PC audio use to increases in the average household modem speed since last year. Results from the report indicate that 27% use a 28.8Kbps modem, 28% use 33.6Kbps, and 17% use 56Kbps. Familiarity with new internet browser technologies, such as audio plug-ins, is also playing a part.

In fact, installation of common plug-ins has more than doubled in the last 14 months. Currently, 68% have installed RealAudio on their PCs, as compared to 32% in December 1996. Macromedia's Shockwave is currently installed on 36% of multimedia PCs, up from 13%.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic for Stereophile readers, however, is that 71% of those surveyed say they use their computers' CD-ROM drives to play audio CDs, up from 62% in the December 1996 survey.